Meet the Humble CEO Who Wants to Build the Biggest Cybersecurity Company Ever—Data Sheet

Lightricks. DataRobot. Hippo. MoneyLion.

So-called unicorn tech startups just keep on proliferating. July saw a dozen privately owned firms cross the $1 billion-plus threshold—more than any other month this year, per Pitchbook data. By August, there were 62 new unicorns minted in 2019, more than the 51 inducted by that time in 2018, or the 33 crowned by then in 2017.

The latest addition to the not-so-mythical beast’s ranks is Cybereason, a Boston-based cybersecurity firm. The seven-year-old startup said Tuesday that it has raised $200 million of funding in a round led by SoftBank, the Japanese telecom and tech investing giant. Cybereason’s investors, which include CRV, Spark Capital, and Lockheed Martin, have marked up the company’s private valuation to north of $1 billion, a source not authorized to discuss the deal’s terms tells Fortune.

SoftBank, a Cybereason customer that became an investor in 2015 and co-led the company’s last fundraising round in 2017, is apparently tripling down on its bet. Marcelo Claure, SoftBank’s chief operating officer, praised Cybereason’s data security prowess and “A.I.-driven technology” in a statement.

It’s no wonder why SoftBank is interested. In June, Cybereason exposed an espionage campaign that had burrowed into at least 10 mobile carriers in order to track 20 or so high-profile political and military targets. While Cybereason declined to provide any other clues about the identities of the hacked telcos or the subjects of surveillance, it attributed the call record-stealing spycraft to a hacker group associated with China. (You can read the full report here.)

Lior Div, Cybereason’s co-founder and CEO, aims to revivify an industry wherein attackers too often evade incumbents. “Companies like Symantec and McAfee simply don’t catch” as many threats today, says the alumnus of Israel’s prestigious Unit 8200 hacking division, referring to the legacy pioneers of antivirus software.

Div compares his technology to Facebook’s social graph. Instead of delineating interpersonal connections, Cybereason maps out the relationships between devices on corporate networks using data collection and machine learning techniques. This week at Black Hat, a Las Vegas cybersecurity conference, the company plans to demo how it is expanding its PC- and server-protecting offerings to mobile devices.

“We think of it as a real-time blueprint of an organization,” Div says.

Since investor Aileen Lee coined the term “unicorn” in 2013, businesses such as Cybereason have become far less rare than her moniker suggests. Perhaps this is due to the magnitude of the challenges faced by the business world, or perhaps it is a consequence of the contagious, ever-inflating ambitions of today’s cocksure entrepreneurs.

Div, for one, is no shrinking violet. “I am on the quest to build the biggest cybersecurity company that exists ever,” he tells Fortune. Then as an afterthought he adds, “in a humble way, step by step.”

This columnist is beginning to think unicorns need a new name, given their dizzying rate of propagation. I propose bunny-corns.

Robert Hackett

On Twitter: @rhhackett



Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. After yesterday's essay about the Apple Card went out, Apple began sending out applications to a limited number of customers to apply for the new credit card. The application should be available to all U.S. iPhone owners later this month, Apple says.

Firm commitments. And speaking of SoftBank-backed startups, the Wall Street Journal is questioning whether the Japanese tech giant's new investment fund is really quite as large as the $108 billion figure cited in a recent press release. The total may include debt and contributions from unnamed firms that have not formally signed on yet, the paper reports.

I heard that. Opening a new front in the privacy wars, regulators in the United States and Europe are reviewing the recent revelations that people working for Apple, Amazon, and Google listened to recordings of smart speaker users, Bloomberg reports. The companies have recently suspended the programs, which aimed to make the speech recognition features more accurate. Separately, Japan’s Fair Trade Commission is probing whether Apple's deals with component suppliers in the country thwarted competition.

The printer is listening. Opening a new front in the global hacking wars, Russia's Fancy Bear unit was caught intruding on printers, voice-over-IP phones, video decoders, and other smart devices by researchers at Microsoft. “These simple attacks taking advantage of weak device management are likely to expand as more IoT devices are deployed in corporate environments,” Microsoft warned.

As the Googleplex turns. In the latest employee feedback controversy at Google, a worker out on maternity leave penned a memo alleging that she was discriminated against for being pregnant. Vice reports on the memo, which is titled "I'm Not Returning to Google After Maternity Leave, and Here is Why." Google said it prohibits retaliation in the workplace but declined to discuss the specifics of the situation. Google also announced it would reduce its carbon footprint by changing shipping methods and incorporating more recycled material in devices like the Pixel phone.

What goes down. As telegraphed yesterday morning, Monday was an awful day in the stock market, particularly for tech stocks, which are seen as particularly vulnerable to the escalating U.S.-China trade war. Nvidia dropped 6%, Apple, Alibaba, and Hewlett Packard lost 5%, while IBM, eBay, Facebook, Dell Technologies, and Oracle fell 4%. Roku, a beneficiary of the cord cutting trend (see below) was a rare stock in the green, rising 2%.

Programmed for good. If you want more in-depth coverage of artificial intelligence, don't forget to subscribe to our weekly Eye on A.I. newsletter. The newest issue comes out later today.

ON THE MOVE founder and CEO Shelia Lirio Marcelo is shifting to the position of executive chair, as the company searches for a new boss...GoDaddy is hiring Aman Bhutani as its new CEO, after Scott Wagner resigned for health reasons. We noted Bhutani's departure from Expedia last week...CRV, the VC firm formerly known as Charles River Ventures, nabbed Anna Khan from rival Bessemer Venture Partners as its 10th general partner...Cloud infrastructure provider DigitalOcean named Yancey Spruill, former COO of SendGrid, as its new CEO, replacing Mark Templeton, who resigned after only about a year on the job...and in NOT on the move news, AMD CEO Lisa Su tweeted on Tuesday morning that there was "zero truth" to a story that she was preparing to depart the company.


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We all love those crazy optical illusions, like the blue box that seems to change color. But Kokichi Sugihara is a virtuoso of the field, creating incredible illusions and sculptures that will warp your brain. On Monday, this Sugihara video of an arrow that seemingly always points the same way was blowing up on Twitter. Give it a whirl.

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